Opening June 7, 2018
Directed by: Oliver Parker
Writing credits: Aschlin Ditta
Principal actors: Rob Brydon, Jim Carter, Rupert Graves, Daniel Mays, Charlotte Riley, Jane Horrocks, Adeel Akhtar, Nathaniel Parker, Christian Rubeck, Robert Daws, Thomas Turgoose
Eric is a British man of a certain age, and he is miserable. Never mind his lovely wife, his cheerful teenage son, his beautiful home, the job where he’s well-compensated and highly valued – Eric’s misery is existential, and while it isn’t particular to being British or to aging (while being flavored by both), it is distinctly male. The young American men in Fight Club (1999) had it: they also felt dehumanized, disconnected, unmanned, and they responded with violence. The gentler creatures of Swimming with Men feel these things but also an urgent need for beauty. And they respond beautifully.
It would be easy to play this for laughs -- soft-bodied, mostly middle-aged men attempting a synchronized swimming team. And yes, it’s a funny movie, but rarely at the expense of the characters, who are presented as both earnest and sympathetic. You find yourself rooting for them, with minimal cringing. While warm-hearted, the film avoids becoming (overly) sappy through sharp, clever dialog and just a touch of that specifically British brand of darkness. Lots of fun. 94 minutes. (Mason Jane M.)